As a practicing vegan, it’s not often that you have reason to celebrate news out of the fast food industry. The ever popular Mexican fast food chain Chipotle has given the veggie-vegan community a reason to raise a collective eye brow. For the first time in its 20 year history, Chipotle is making a big change to its menu — by adding tofu. After a year-long testing period, the chain will roll out Sofritas, the official name for the shredded organic tofu braised with poblanos, chipotle chiles, and spices, in its restaurants nationwide. All the ingredients (particularly the tofu) are organically grown and GMO-free.
While the new addition of tofu to the menu may only account for 3% of Chipotle’s overall sales, the initial test-run was only limited to two cities: Philadelphia and Baltimore. Chipotle fans and enthusiasts in New York City and Boston will see sofritas available starting on March 3rd, with every other franchise following soon after.
In case you haven’t been following, Chipotle has gained some serious credibility and respect from organic and veg-food advocates with their recent launch of a GMO-free campaign. It started with the release of a powerful short film, which satirizes the factory farming industry in a Willy Wonka themed animation; featuring Fiona Apple on vocals.
Chipotle also helped produce a new Hulu exclusive film series entitled “Farmed and Dangerous.” The show will run as a four-episode series focusing on a fictional industrial agriculture company that comes up with a dubious plan to feed cows petroleum-based animal pellets. Those pellets save the company money, but they also make the cows explode. Calamity ensues, featuring Twin Peaks star Ray Wise and other characters, and the audience indirectly learns about pressing issues facing the food industry, such as the reliance on fossil fuels and the overuse of antibiotics on animals.
Needless to say, Chipotle has gained a lot of popularity as of late; demonstrating a sense of social responsibility in an industry that is often devoid of it. More importantly though, it’s addressing the issue of veggie-vegan friendly foods in the mainstream. Publicity and attention will definitely further legitimize veganism. However, it does raise a significant question: Is it justified to support an organization that still actively participates in the whole-sale slaughter of animals? Should this fact be overlooked, as a sort of “necessary evil” in order to help sway more and more people to choose the meat-free option? It’s hard to say at this point. Higher sales for veggie options would be a good indicator that fewer people ate a meaty meal. Or it could also just mean that more people have hopped on the Chipotle band-wagon. Either way, the burrito-lover within me is jumping for joy.